WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXII) 08/11/21

3:4 But those who keep on sinning are against God, for every sin is contrary to God’s will.

Before I knew anything about the law, Paul says, I was living great. But when I heard the law’s command, my sinful tendencies came alive, and my spiritually died of thirst. God ordered these restrictions to bring spiritual life, but for me, it brought spiritual death. Sin found a way to fool me by using the command to kill me spiritually. I believe the law is sacred, and the rules are holy and right and good. So, does this mean something designed to help me ended up ruining me spiritually? No, my sinful tendencies used these excellent commands to bring my innocence to an end. It shows how terrible sin is. It can use an excellent guideline to produce a result that shows sin at its worst.[1]

Remember, the second sin ever recorded was committed in the Garden of Eden; we should not be surprised that God used Moses to speak to the children of Israel about this continued penalty for going against God’s Word. The first sin was Satan’s rebellion against God, which cause him to be ejected from heaven, just as Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden’s Garden.[2] At least king Saul summoned the courage to confess one of his sins to the prophet Samuel.[3] So, it should have been no surprise that the Holy Spirit came upon Zechariah and gave him a message for the people of Israel that they were disobeying God’s will. The last words in his proclamation must have sent chills down the people’s spine: “Because you have left the Lord, He has left you.”[4] You would have thought the people of Judah learned their lesson about forsaking God’s Word and Worship. Yet, such unfaithfulness and idolatry led to living in a foreign land under the rule of a pagan king who worshiped a false god.[5]

Therefore, the Apostle Paul found himself dealing with the same issues with the Christians in Rome, even though they knew that refusing to obey God’s will lead to sin.[6] But what about strictly following all of God’s law? That won’t work either, says Paul because that is only done to try and make oneself look good in God’s eyes and earn mercy from Him. The problem is that no matter how many you keep, there will always be some you break, and then you lose everything and must start all over.[7] The Apostle James said it the same way in his letter.[8]

Once more, the Apostle John turns from the positive to the negative. Having shown what the new birth involves, he goes on to show what it excludes. “Anyone who breaks God’s law sins.” Thus, violations of the Law are the same as living contrary to God’s will. It seems to be the same kind of balance we find in verse three: “All who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure.” Since doing wrong is the opposite of doing right, it leads to rebellion, and that is anarchy. All misdeeds are contrary to the law, and all lawlessness is sin. Not following the rules expresses ignoring the Law rather than being ignorant of it. The Lawmeans the moral law of God in the fullest sense, not the Mosaic Law.” In short, we define ungodliness as the transgression of God’s will, for God’s will is His Law.

The Apostle John alerts us to the fact that sin is incompatible with spiritual birth.[9]  It is contrary to our born-again nature.  Doing wrong stands in opposition to the purity of the previous verse. Therefore, we must not take our faults lightly because it is a revolt against God. Furthermore, rebelliousness is out of line with being regenerated. It is out of harmony with the will of God. A believer in fellowship with the Lord and fellow Christians wants to do God’s will, not theirs. Being filled with the Spirit produces God’s character and Christian living according to God’s standards.

On the other hand, unbelievers think they can please the Lord by doing things their way.  They imagine that pretend spirituality will make God happy. They are convinced that self-denial, emotionalism, or having a delighted experience glorifies the Lord.  It is righteousness by works and not by the power of the Spirit.  It’s all ungodliness on the outside and nothing godly on the inside. They do nothing but turn their lives loose to commit lawlessness when they allow their sinful tendencies the freedom to control them. Being lawless means paying no attention to God’s law of love and holds contempt for it.  The Final Covenant renders this word “iniquity.”  It is more than disobeying God’s law; it also conveys the idea of rebellion against Him. Lawlessness is the rejection of law rather than merely the absence of any regulations. Immorality and violation of God’s law are identical concepts. When we break God’s commandments, we declare war against Him.

In addition, being irresponsible is more than the mere violation of the laws of mankind – the laws of society.  Rejecting authority is not simply stealing; it is robbing oneself of God’s character.  It is defiance against God. We know that hatred abuses God’s law of love because it results in anarchy, acts of violence, and the next-generation following the same pattern. People who do not believe in God’s restraint of their instincts participate in lawlessness. That is why we must understand that God’s law is an expression of His character. We declare rebellion against God when we break the laws of His divine nature. Sin both defiles God’s goodness and defies God’s respectability. The more sincere we are and the more serious we are about pleasing God, the more alarm we have about the issue of immorality in our lives. God’s law is an expression of God’s character. If we step over that line, we insult the righteousness of God.[10]

Note that this passage does not say, “Where there is no law, there is no sin.”  Being defiant comes in different sizes and shapes. We cannot step over a line where no line exists. We cannot violate God’s character if there is no restriction or probation against doing what we do.[11] Sin did not take on the flavor of misbehavior until the law came. There was no express law forbidding something. Instead, the law became a warning sign. The moment we fly in the face of an explicit restriction against something, we enter into the domain of rebellion. We willfully disobey the revealed will of God.

Sin is incompatible with God’s divine nature expressed in His Law and Word.  Evil is parallel with lawlessness.[12]  Immorality is by its very nature lawless. Wrongdoing is anything contrary to the character of God.  Transgressions are more than just breaking the Ten Commandments because it involves lawlessness.  It mocks the moral essence, divine nature, and authority of God.  Misdeeds are essentially being insubordinate to God; it defies and violates God’s standards of right living, whether incorporated in the Mosaic Law or not. We cannot please God except by a new nature because of the absolute character of a perfect God.

Keep in mind, doing evil is a rejection of God’s expressed will. No human can please God without a reborn nature. If people attempt to keep the law without the mindset to do so, they will fail. The only thing that can bridle the unbeliever’s sinful tendencies is a change of heart. The fundamental cause of all our faults and all law-breaking is a heart issue. Education will not change the heart. We can have the finest schools and teachers with the most outstanding facility, but if there is no change in the student’s behavior, they will fail because they cannot get to the root of the issue. Psychology does not change the heart. It can change behavior patterns and some attitudes but not the fundamentals in a person’s heart. Governmental laws and police enforcement cannot change the heart. New gun legislation cannot stop the person who wants to murder. Anarchy mounts, and we get nowhere. People are not disobedient because they commit offenses; they violate God’s Law and Will because they are sinners.[13] Our outward shortcomings are an index of our inner nature.  Only by the new birth do we get a recreated attitude.

The reason for all this is that only a person with a spiritual nature can please God and do His will. For instance, compare Romans 6:6 with Colossians 3:10; Galatians 5:24 with 5:17; and 1 Peter 1:23 with 1 John 3:9. Any way you look at it, a crime is breaking God’s law of love. In fact, “lawlessness” is a more impactful term than “sin” because it includes the idea of a determined disregard for the law.  Being error-prone is more than a failure to measure up; it is a stubborn refusal to conform to God’s standards.  The operating principle of wickedness is equivalent to a refutation, an assertion against God’s will. Thus, the active focus of evil is rebellion against the nature of God.

Therefore, sin has an authority problem. At heart, we are rebels. “We want our way no matter what anyone thinks about it.  We don’t care how God feels about it.”  It is spiritual anarchy.[14] It liberates everyone to do things their way; The only valid will in the universe is God’s, yet we set up our faulty intentions in opposition. Since God is absolute, we must come to God on God’s terms. And coming to Him on our terms is out of the question. Neither can we bargain nor make deals with God. God does not have a changing character. He does not adjust His divine nature to accommodate mankind because His integrity is infinite and absolute. God will not trade His standards away.


[1] Romans 7:7-13

[2] Numbers 15:31

[3] 1 Samuel 15:24

[4] 2 Chronicles 24:20

[5] Daniel 9:11

[6] Romans 3:20

[7] Ibid. 4:15

[8] James 2:9-10; cf. Romans 7:7-13

[9] 1 John 3:1-3

[10] Romans 4:15

[11] Ibid. 5:13-14

[12] Ibid. 2:29

[13] 1 John 3:8

[14] Isaiah 53:6

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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